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Well, it’s going to happen — but what does Conor McGregor’s fight with Floyd Mayweather mean?

Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor
Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor will collide on Aug. 26 in Las Vegas.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

So we’re going through with the damn thing. It takes an elastic brain to fully wrap your mind all the way around the idea, but Conor McGregor — MMA’s pay-per-view Goliath — is going to fight Floyd Mayweather in a boxing ring on Aug. 26 in Las Vegas. All the speculation and doubt has graduated into something actual and unprecedented. McGregor is officially the most self-actualized athlete in the 21st century, a one-man reality shaper who turns “no” into “watch and see” just to make people contemplate infinity. Floyd? Floyd gets to squeeze another $200 million (give or take) from the public pot of curiosity.

It’s on.

And now that it is, let’s just get this out of the way first — holy shit. God. What? How? When Mayweather and McGregor first began chirping about fighting each other, it felt like an abstract and moronic thing, just some casual blowhardism from alphas in different spheres. It was absurd, too, because there was no way to resolve it. Simply put, it was nothing more than a topic for people who love to argue over nonsense until they turn blue in the face.

McGregor belonged to the UFC, and Mayweather belonged to something even more tyrannical (himself). Each belonged to different sports.

The common ground, as one might expect, was reached following the Trail of Zeroes. Money kept the idea valid all the way through the process, and did away with any illogical swell-ups, such as this — McGregor has never competed in a professional boxing match. Or this: Floyd made something like $225 million fighting Manny Pacquiao, while McGregor made perhaps 1/20th of that winning his second title against Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205. Or this: Floyd is retired…McGregor has a lightweight belt to defend…MMA fans aren’t necessarily boxing fans…and boxing people tend to become stodgy elitists when forced to mention MMA in the same breath.

Money cancelled out all the noise and got the deal done. The complaints, from fighters to media to fans, were never heard over the approaching, rumbling funnel cloud of All That Money. The UFC, which is now under the new ownership group of WME/IMG, isn’t going to cut themselves out of what people are going to dub “The Fight of the Century,” which has a chance to eclipse the 4.4 million PPV record that Mayweather did against Pacquiao. Dana White, who has regained a little of the fancy footwork that made him Dana F*cking White, is playing with house money, so he wasn’t going to stand in the way. Mayweather gets to cash in one more time with a chance to make his record a perfect 50-0, against a Gucci-sporting coxcomb way out of his element.

Through all the posturing, this was a virtual no-brainer from his side of things.

The fight is done. It’s happening. Now what’s left to see is A) how insane the lead-up will be, B) just how much money it actually pulls in, C) if the fight is anything close to competitive, and D) if this is the moment MMA loses McGregor for good.

The last one is the sorrowful weirdness of McGregor’s quest. For so long he has operated on an escalating scale of outdoing himself by degrees with each new pursuit — part of what makes him great is his audacity to set lofty goals, and a mystic’s ability to realize them right before our eyes. Against grave doubt he made his way to the UFC, got the lights dropped on him in Boston, took out his kryptonite in the wrestler (Chad Mendes), took out an icon in 13 seconds (Jose Aldo), showed that losing didn’t matter (against Nate Diaz), broke PPV records (in the rematch against Diaz), and then won a second title (against Alvarez).

It’s his Eff You March that should give anybody pause to pick against him, even against a moving mirage like Mayweather — the most elite craftsman in his field. If anything, he’s the only fighter where the verdict is still out, not just on whether or not he’s in collusion with the cosmos, but just how deeply.

Absurd, absurd, I know. It can’t be. It’s not. Or is it? Human beings marvel at other human beings doing preternatural things. Right now McGregor dares anything to defy him, and there’s no good proof that he’s delusional. It’s his defiance that has got him here. He continues to do the unthinkable. Realizing the Mayweather fight should be savored for that reason alone, because this is as far up the esclator as one can go — all the way into a crossover fight against boxing’s best, for nine figures and the eyes of the world.

After this, what is there? It’s color bars and dial tone.

Or, you know, a return to the mortal world of the UFC.

Once his foray against Mayweather is over, who knows how that trilogy with Diaz will look. Who knows if Tony Ferguson will still look like a big fight, or if Khabib Nurmagomedov will be around to challenge him. Who knows if McGregor will still see the challenges in the usual sense, with the jackpots a great deal smaller. Should he lose to Mayweather and look ordinary doing so, some of that aura will fade. The casuals are a ruthless lot, especially when assigning frauds. (And they have a way of defining a fraud like this: Take their money and don’t deliver? Fraud).

And let’s be honest, there is an air of the scam in play. Mayweather speaks in dollar signs, and McGregor admires a don like Mayweather. What is this fight, really? It’s a collision of vanities. It’s moguls in motion, realizing a unique spot in time where the rules are what they make them. The spirit of McGregor-Mayweather is the thousands of smirking Benjamin Franklins that will crowd into the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, and the thousands more that will fly in from the outside for the chance to peek in. What will they see? A pair of people who will never realize contentment in this life.

There will be the selling points. McGregor has the reach advantage, and he’s a southpaw. He has power. He is younger than the 40-year-old Mayweather by a dozen years. Floyd, a master salesmen, is already highlighting these points, talking about how out of shape he is. The A Side is selling the B Side, because at bottom competitiveness matters most. Even the illusion of it.

Can McGregor win? The spirit of the endeavor is in that question. Anything that he has said he’ll do to this point, he has done. Now he says he wants to shock the world. Becoming the first UFC champion to segue to the boxing ring and take out Mayweather in his first ever professional bout would be shocking, alright. If he loses, hey, not many thought he’d do otherwise. One thing that’s guaranteed: He’s the kind of big picture fighter that is looking at every eventuality, including losing a fight he has no business winning.

One thing that’s not, is that paydays like this will come around again. As far as his MMA career is concerned, whether he wins or loses against Mayweather, it’s all downhill from here.

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